Future Appears Bright for Online Content Despite Economic Worries

A few people have emailed me to ask what I thought about the effect the economy would have on the online video industry. I’m not really sure, but I feel optimistic for several reasons: 

The bigger industry that is spilling into the web is already in flux. Their main concerns are the spending budgets of big advertisers – the mainstay bread and butter like Coke and Ford – and reducing their own production costs which they have already been doing. So in some ways, this is probably going to hurt the overall bottom line of the big media companies to some degree because many (but not all!) of the major ad companies will inevitably cut back on ad spending budgets first. Advertising spending tends to fluctuate with the economy pretty closely. And this of course means the larger media companies will need to cut their corners quicker and start to think outside of the box more quickly on alternative ways to get out their content and the advertisers messages for cheaper.

According to a recent report (Reuters), adverting spending fell 2% over the last six months and recently dropped 3.7% which is considered massive for the industry, something which hasn’t hasn’t happened since fears following the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

Nevertheless, according to the same report, “internet advertising was the biggest gainer over the first six months, rising 8 percent.” And even as growth is expected to slow in a downturn, experts in the UK are expecting at least 20% growth during a recession in the year ahead (Guardian), while the US can expect 14% growth through what appears to be hard times. (ecommercetimes)

And this is where the opportunity for startups and independents online becomes greater, I think, as the creation, distribution and promotion of content can be so much more effective and economical. Good, inexpensive content that creates a spark will be attractive and more viable to an advertiser looking for a targeted, valuable audience. The better the content, the easier it will be.

Meanwhile, naturally, there is a trend of more and more people coming online to consume media. This is one very nice strongpoint that we all enjoy for living during a period in history where the online population is rapidly growing. Perhaps your desirable audience demographic will grow over the next several months and even years, regardless of the economy. According to another US study released last week (Market Watch) “the number of consumers watching video streamed through a browser has doubled over the past year, going from 32% a year ago to 63% today.” FTW!

While we are often preconditioned in many ways by the society, culture and brick and mortar market right outside of our doors, I like to think of online content creation as having as it’s first principle of distribution, the entire world at it’s door.

WIth regards to the next three months, for the last three years in a row, from this month of September through the end of December, we have always seen a major increase in traffic. Whereas many online websites see the biggest slowdowns of the year around the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, we see the biggest increase of traffic for the entire year. 

Having lived a life closely intertwined with a perspective on arts & entertainment, it’s typically the fine arts like the city ballet and orchestra that are the first to lose their budgets because they are often dependent on government funding, however, I have a pretty good sense from everything I have studied, and what intuitively seems to make sense, that quality entertainment will always be in high demand during a state of depression. 

So what does all this mean for the small companies distributing content online? Keep course and take the opportunity to pull ahead by making that content as good as it can be.

The infamous “Phantom of the Opera” Stage 28 which opened in 1925.

Currently in related discussion on startups in general: Loic Le Meur Blog, The Constant Observer, Regular Geek and Startup Chatter


Is Google Search Thinning?

There is a discussion of Google going on with Tim O’Reilly and Read Write Web regarding the well being of Google. Read Write Web proposed the idea that Google was flailing and spreading itself too thin, but O’Reilly dismissed the notion suggesting Google is healthy.

Funny enough, an idea hit pretty hard the other day when I was looking at my friendfeed sidebar I have here on my blog (to the right). Check out all the conversation that is happening around these posts. Yes, I call them posts, for they are not just aggregated feed items from my other accounts around the web. Friendfeed has become a favorite of mine and it’s lot like my blog, its just easier to post over there and there is more community for me there.

But the problem is, for me, none of that data is showing up in Google search. Its not being indexed because FF has opted to disallow search spiders. As a result, all of this potentially useful data will never be discovered outside of FF. Even the sidebar on my blog is not indexed.

So why would FF block the spiders you ask? For the same reason Twitter did I assume: The new search engine that Twitter bought, Summize, is a major property value. An enormous amount of the value of Twitter is the ability to search news updates every .01 seconds. (e.g. I wanted to know if there was still a line at the Apple store in Soho when the iPhone came out, so I went to twitter search, typed in “apple soho” and found a tweet from someone published 20 seconds prior that said the line was around the block to Houston street, info Google could not offer). Not sure if anyone is articulating this, but a no brainer way for Twitter to generate a lot of revenue would be to sell the rights for search engines to index them. To my point, Twitter could end up selling spider rights for even more by going exclusive, dealing with only one search giant, like Yahoo for instance, leaving Google out in the cold.

Facebook, Myspace, iTunes, Twitter, Friendfeed, the list goes on and on – all not indexable by Google spiders.

Are you seeing a trend here? I know I am. For all of the time, value and umph I put into publishing on these networks, I get no Google juice in return – the traffic gain and value goes to others and thus I’m decentralized and I’m also unable to monetize until they are ready to monetize my work on their terms.

While there is no denying that there is still a lot of value for me personally nonetheless, and while I am okay with continuing on in this direction (i.e. its better than not being there at all), it seems like the internet is trending away from a centralized search. 

I used to think of Google as my entry point into the web but recently, have found that Google search is where I go just to get old news and well established findings. More recently, I find myself going other places to explore and research.

In my opinion this trend is a potential threat to Google search. Its not any one company that is coming in to rival the superpower by doing it better, and its not about Google spreading itself too thin, its just that Google is being denied access to important, growing pools of data. Perhaps the trend is a slow breakdown, more like the melting ice caps. Slow, but quick enough to be concerned.

*update: apparently FF and Twitter DO allow alot of indexing, though I maintain my argument re: Facebook, Myspace, etc as major pools of inaccessible data.


One Web Day – Do Something!

Today for One Web Day I was encouraging people to do something valuable with their time to help keep the internet free. I wasn’t demanding it, I was just trying to inspire people to appreciate what we have and help to protect it. Jonathan Zittrain is a lawyer who has done some wonderful things in the past except for today when he decided to refute my entire presentation and then diverted the spirit and essence of my point to prove his. After seemingly destroying me, he went on to conclude that he appreciates all the “crap” out there. I appreciate that there is crap out there – I appreciate the freedom which was his point too – and I’d also like to see better which was my point. I’m glad everyone can relax and LOL whenever they want but I become disappointed when I see bright minds spending all of their time online with zombie bites and superpokes. The point I made (inspired by Tim O’reilly at his 2.0 conference) is that we can do more. In order to protect the freedom of the web in particular, we must continue to take action.

*update: It seems as though Nacy Scola from TechPresident picked up on this as well.


End of an Era for the Sitcom

The observer is running a very interesting article on some of the effects of the changing TV climate. Content-wise, just based on numbers, it appears that sitcoms are all but extinct:

“At one point in the 1990s, NBC had 16 half-hour sitcoms on the air. This fall, it has four. And two of those four–The Office and 30 Rock–though critically beloved (both are up for Best Comedy Emmys on Sunday, Sept. 21), are struggling to be embraced by mainstream audiences”.

I remember watching Different Strokes, Facts of Life and so many other sitcoms on TV, and I did enjoy them. But in retrospect, the family sitcoms usually made me feel stupid like I was being tricked into learning the fundamentals of morality.

Recently, on a cross-atlantic flight, I had a shocking experience watching contemporary Disney channel shows like Hanna Montana and wondered why kids like it so much. I accept that they like it, but with so many other options for their time, is it PR alone that makes these shows so popular? Or are they really that great? In the past there was no choice. Time will tell. 

Below was an all time favorite, “One Day at a Time”. One of my first major crushes was on Valeri Bertinelli:


The Vlog is Dead

We removed /vlog from the url structure of the Rocketboom website. It used to be rocketboom.com/vlog but no more. The word “vlog” is dead for many reasons. It’s a terrible name for one. Too, it’s come to mean “the other” or “the alien” category that people want to avoid because it doesn’t fit into the “entertainment” category or the “comedy” or “news” categories. List your reasons why vlog is dead below. RIP.


Headlines on Microsoft’s Bill Gates & Jerry Seinefeld

Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld ad airs – Apple has nothing to worry about
Seinfeld’s First Microsoft Commercial: Not Funny
New Vista advertisement debuts and flops
New Seinfeld Microsoft Ad Runs, Is About Nothing
Can anyone explain the 1st Bill Gates- Jerry Seinfeld Microsoft Commercial?
Who are the Ad Wizards Who Came Up With This One?
The Easiest 10 Million Bucks Ever Made
Was this ad supposed to be funny? 
The First Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld Microsoft Ad Makes No Sense
The first Microsoft Seinfeld spot: The ad about nothing
First Seinfeld Microsoft Ad Airs, Thin on Content
New Microsoft Seinfeld-Gates ad campaign starts with a dud
Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates ad set in a shoe store?
First Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld Microsof Ad Makes No Sense
Microsoft’s First Seinfeld Ad Is An Epic Fail
MSFT’s New Nothing Ad Campaign With Seinfeld
What’s the deal with this commercial? No, seriously.
Gates, Seinfeld, Yada, Yada
Bill Gates + Jerry Seinfeld = What?!!???
Non Sequitur Microsoft Ad Featuring Jerry Seinfeld & Bill Gates
Jerry Seinfeld laughs all the way to the bank
Microsoft Seinfeld Ad Not Exactly a Hit
Gates, Seinfield, Microsoft ad. Huh?
Internet disses new Microsoft commercial


Not Web TV Must Be Unique

Brian Stelter, a writer of online video for the NYTimes, has done it again with an article that makes me wonder if he’s stuck with a miserable job that he hates. For Web TV, a Handful of Hits but No Formula for Success.

In his article today, he focuses on scripted series for the web and makes it seem like everyone is standing around scratching their heads trying to figure out what the formula is. Unfortunately there is no formula to content online and if there does become one, we know we have a problem. 

The “Lost” of the Web — or maybe it will be a “Friends” — has yet to be born.”, Stellar writes.

Stellar grew up in a world where most people turned on their TV’s at some point during the day and picked from an offering of only three or four programs available to the whole world, so of course, everyone knew about these shows. How could you of missed I Love Lucy if it was one of the only things playing? It’s hard to miss Friends, if you are in the US and the US has traditionally exported their most popular TV shows around the world. That world is so long gone its ridiculous that people are looking for that right now. Lost may have been the last.

I am still amazed every time I meet someone that has not heard of Boing Boing so its hard to remember that most people haven’t heard of it. On the other hand, I meet a lot of people who don’t know who the Jonas Brothers are. Meanwhile, there are Jonas Brothers fans who can not identify any songs by the Beatles. The word niche is rejected because the market rejects it and articles like this are a major part of the problem. 

There are not just a few choices appearing on your screen. There are all kinds of things to do and all kinds of things to listen to and see, so naturally, there will be less and less attention on more and more top shows. And so lo and behold, when everyone doesn’t have time to watch all of the top shows because there are too many other things to do than sit around and watch hardly any shows anyway, it will be clear that the golden age of TV is over. 

The article cites Dr. Horrible as a rare examples of a hit, but fails to note why this show made it over the hump: it was because the content was not just good, it was truly unique. It was quite different. It was  distinct and idiosyncratic. It was one-of-a-kind. That is, it was a hit because it was not formulaic.

Stellar’s article might be the most offensive by defining all of this as “Web TV”. Why not look around at what others including your own colleagues are saying about Web TV? No one really likes it because it’s so different than what we are dealing with here. 

*Update: The next day another NYTimes article comes out, “It’s not TV, it’s Web TV”. Ugh.